Blaze decimates another market in Karachi three days after cloth centre inferno

Published November 18, 2021
Firefighters standing in the bucket attached onto a mechanically bending arm of a snorkel fire truck hose the top floor of the Victoria Market in Saddar, where a huge fire erupted on Wednesday.—Shakil Adil / White Star
Firefighters standing in the bucket attached onto a mechanically bending arm of a snorkel fire truck hose the top floor of the Victoria Market in Saddar, where a huge fire erupted on Wednesday.—Shakil Adil / White Star

KARACHI: Four warehouses and around 45 shops were gutted when a huge fire broke out in another famous market of Saddar, the Victoria Market, adjacent to the Zainab Market on Wednesday, officials and witnesses said.

This is the second major fire incident in less than a week as on Nov 14 hundreds of shops were gutted in the Saddar Cooperative Market fire.

The blaze that erupted on the top floor (fifth) of the Victoria Market on Abdullah Haroon Road at around 11.30am was put out after hectic efforts lasting for several hours. The cooling process, however, continued till late in the night.

Deputy Commissioner-South Irshad Sodhar told Dawn that almost the entire top floor of the multi-storey shopping centre had been destroyed in the fire.

45 shops on building’s fifth floor gutted; CM takes notice of two similar incidents

He said that the floor mainly comprised of warehouses, where winter clothes were stocked. Since there was no other activity, the DC said that an electric short-circuit might have started the fire.

South SSP Zubair Nazeer Sheikh said that no one was injured in the fire.

He said that they were waiting for firemen’s report to initiate legal proceedings.

Karachi Administrator Barrister Murtaza Wahab said an investigation would be carried out to ascertain the exact cause of the fire.

Building lacks ‘proper’ fire safety system

Chief Fire Officer Mubeen Ahmed told Dawn that around 12-13 fire engines and two snorkels took part in the firefighting efforts. He said that four warehouses located on the top floor of the building were destroyed. He said that the shopkeepers claimed that their 40-45 shops were gutted.

The chief fire officer said that they faced difficulties in controlling the fire as clothes mostly jackets and sweaters were stored in the market and even placed on stairs of the building, which did not have a proper fire safety system.

He said that there was also no fire alarm system in the busy market and shopkeepers become aware of the fire when huge flames were leaping into the sky and thick smoke was billowing from the building.

He suggested that modern devices, breakers, etc, had been installed in the electric system to prevent short circuits and shopping centres should also introduced these devices to avoid such incidents.

He said that the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board provided them uninterrupted water supply due to which they did not face any difficulty in getting water.

A visit to the fire location showed that thick smoke was emanating from the top floor of the building and enveloped the whole area.

A portion of Zainab Market and other adjacent centres were closed while the busy part of the Abdullah Haroon Road was also closed for vehicular traffic.

Some shopkeepers told Dawn that some silk clothes were also kept there. Some complained that firemen were not equipped with ‘modern’ equipment to prevent the fire from spreading and controlling it.

Murad takes notice of two fires

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah took notice of the fire incident in Victoria Market and sought a detailed inquiry report about the two fire incidents that occurred within a week in the main downtown area of Saddar.

Traders at the Cooperative Market had suspected sabotage behind the fire and lodged an FIR at the Preedy police station against unidentified suspects.

Meanwhile, the SSP-South told Dawn that they had launched an investigation into the Cooperative Market fire incident but they were still waiting for the final report of fire brigade about the exact cause of the fire to initiate legal proceedings.

The chief fire officer said he could not compile the final report about the earlier fire incident as he was busy in Wednesday’s firefighting operation.

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2021

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